Suva, Fiji, 24 May, 2021- The Oceania Customs Organisation organised its first Virtual Workshop on Digital Customs & Ecommerce from 18-21 May, 2021 with 85 Customs officials from 16 countries participating. The objective of the workshop was to support members in the preparation of a coherent application and implementation of automation, single window and processes to facilitate e-commerce.
OCO Head of Secretariat, Richard Brennan in his opening remark said, “while e-commerce had been a long-term target of Customs administrations, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more urgent to have automated processes. He further added that, “managing the health crisis during this pandemic is important but it is equally important to manage the economic crisis, for Customs administrations this means ensuring that continuity of transborder trading.”
During the three-day workshop, the OCO Secretariat with the Regional Single Window Expert and UNCTAD presented on technical issues relating to Digital Customs, E-commerce and Single Window. UNCTAD is the key agency in the implementation of ASYCUDA World for the Pacific Island countries.
The Pacific Island Forum Secretariat apprised the participants of the E-Commerce work in the WTO and the Pacific and the work towards a Regional E-Commerce Strategy. OCO members- Australia, CNMI, Fiji, New Zealand, Palau and Papua New Guinea shared their national experiences on automation, revenue collection and border control strategies on ecommerce consignments.
OCO’s work on e-commerce began last year with a survey to gauge OCO members’ current practices and procedures on the facilitation of cross-border e-commerce. There are still significant challenges in the region on e-commerce with regards to regulatory frameworks and the application of risk management and technologies to facilitate small value consignments. The workshop provided the opportunity to discuss regional approaches to assisting members in this regard.
“E-commerce has real potential to narrow distances and trade costs, and to promote diversification of Pacific economies. COVID-19 has highlighted the significance of growing cross-border e-commerce and the need for Customs administrations in the Pacific to adequately prepare to facilitate and address issues stemming from e-commerce transactions but at the same time ensure safety and security for all” Mr. Brennan said.
Stanley Trief, Manager of the Electronic Single Window System Project, also shared Vanuatu’s experiences. Vanuatu is the first country in the Pacific that has implemented an Electronic Single Window platform, which incorporates customs online payment, passenger processing and also links with other government agencies and services such as Biosecurity, Energy and Environment. In the future, Vanuatu’s postal services will also be linked to the system. Mr. Trief provided details of Vanuatu’s experience on customs automation, system development process, IT, project and change management related issues.
The OCO Secretariat continues to encourage south-south cooperation through the sharing of best practices to inspire Pacific Island countries to address gaps that would be difficult to tackle individually and find regional solutions that can be adopted and replicated to other customs administrations.
“We acknowledge the importance of automation and how it substantially contributes to making customs operations both more effective and more efficient and at the same time understanding that automation is not a panacea and OCO members still need to streamline and simplify their border practices and management. OCO continues to provide capacity building to members in the harmonization and simplification of customs procedures.”
Through the discussions, sharing of experiences and interactions, the key takeaways from the workshop for OCO members was the need for political support, and appropriate regulatory framework and processes as enablers to implement digital customs and e-commerce. At the same time provide avenue for, sustainable capacity building to customs officers to respond, adapt and innovate to the changing global trade landscapes.
For more information or for any queries, please contact the Secretariat or email: firstname.lastname@example.org